The Secret to Reducing Avoidable Inbound Calls to Customer Service Teams

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Pretend for a minute that you work for an enterprise B2C company. Your company wants to reduce inbound calls, so you invested in a few digital solutions aimed at doing just that. Unfortunately, the opposite has actually happened — inbound calls have increased.

The increase in calls doesn’t really make sense to you. You did everything right. Your company redesigned its website to make it easier for customers to answer questions on their own. You also implemented a website chatbot system that is supposed to solve user problems.

The question you’re now trying to answer is, “What went wrong, and how can we get back on the right track so that we can reduce call volume?”

The answer is that your company focused on the wrong objectives when trying to reduce inbound calls. You were focused on organizational objectives — like building a new website. You should’ve been focused on customer objectives — like increasing your First Call Resolution rate.

The Secret to Reducing Inbound Calls

When you set out to reduce inbound calls, you need to focus on the right objectives. That means you also need to have in place an understanding of your expectations and motivations. Otherwise, you could cause an increase in call volume, as we saw in the example above.

So, what’s the right motivation when trying to reduce inbound call volume? It isn’t “we need to cut costs, and reducing inbound calls will do that.” If that’s your motivation, you won’t achieve your goal.

It also can’t be “we want to reduce our customer service team’s workload.” That’s a nice thought, but it’s still the wrong motivation.

The problem with both of those motivations is that they’re still company-focused. Your goal needs to be more customer-focused. After all, the customer is the whole reason your customer service team exists.

Creating a better customer experience will give you the end result you want — in this case, reducing inbound calls. That motivation shouldn’t be lip service, either. It needs to be something your organization strongly believes in.

This is why the example we used in the introduction to this post failed — that company wasn’t focused on solving customer problems. They were focused on organizational initiatives — like reducing inbound calls.

On the flip side, this is why a company like Shop Direct is so successful. Their company-wide focus on adapting to consumer trends helps build their brand and creates lifelong customers.

When you’re able to put the customer first and become a customer-focused organization, you’ll be forced to do four things that will reduce inbound calls as a positive side effect:

1. Use the Customer-Focused Success Metrics

Some call centers focus on metrics such as low Average Handle Time (AHT) or the number of inbound calls a team member takes in a day. Both of those numbers are organizational-focused, not customer-focused.

Low AHT doesn’t result in customer service agents handling more problems more quickly. It often results in those agents not completely solving a customer’s problem but moving on anyway, because they’re being timed. That leads to a bad customer experience and possibly an increase in inbound calls because the customer might have to call a second time to fully solve his or her problem.

Instead, to be more customer-focused, focus on metrics like:

  1. First Call Resolution (FCR) reduces inbound calls by solving customer problems the first time they call. If you can accomplish that, the customer won’t be calling about the same problem, which will reduce inbound call volume.
  2. Abandoned Call Rate (ACR) reduces inbound calls by handling customer problems more quickly. When ACR is high, it’s usually because of long wait times. That leads to customers hanging up and calling again later, which increases the wait times when they call back, which will cause your overall average ACR to increase. It’s a never-ending cycle, but if you can lower your ACR, you’ll have happier customers, whose problems will be solved more quickly.
  3. Average Response Time (ART) goes hand in hand with ACR. If your ART is lower, your ACR will be lower as a result. It might not seem like ART can affect inbound call volume, but when you use this metric across all inbound channels, it can make a huge difference. If your customers know you’re very quick to respond via email, meaning your email ART is low, they’ll be more likely to use that channel to get in touch with customer support. That will reduce inbound calls.

Using customer-focused metrics will help reduce overall inbound call volume because it will help keep your motivations in the right place. If you’re motivated to have a low ART and a high FCR, regardless of your Average Handle Time, your customers’ problems will be solved quickly on any channel.

That demonstrates a readiness to help your customers in ways that work for them and aligns with their preferences. Otherwise, you’re forcing customers to conform to your policies. It’s another subtle way to show your customers they matter to you.

Find out how to support remote customer service teams: How to Support Remote Contact Centers: Give Agents the Resources They Need to Keep Your Business Functioning at Its Best

2. Improve Your Customer Communication Methods

Being customer-focused also means using the methods of communication that your customers are comfortable using. Some of those other methods also have the benefit of being partially or fully automated and offering asynchronous communication.

Automated messages will both reduce inbound calls by allowing your customers to solve problems on their own. Asynchronous communication helps your customer service team handle more than one customer at a time — something that’s not possible with traditional phone calls.

For example, if your company primarily caters to millennials, you may want to consider customer communication methods beyond the traditional phone call.

Here are a few examples:

  • Interactive SMS Text Messaging. Most people are familiar and comfortable with text messaging. In fact, around 75% of millennials prefer texting to phone calls. Interactive text messaging has the big advantage of being automated— this gives your customer the ability to solve problems without needing to speak with customer service agent. That will reduce the number of inbound calls your customer service team handles, while also increasing customer satisfaction.
  • Interactive Voice Messaging (IVM) can automate the entire conversation with customers. That allows the customer to solve their own problems by working with your automated system, which can reduce or eliminate wait-times. As a result, your Abandoned Call Rate and Average Response Time will decrease. In turn, you’ll reduce inbound calls. If a customer still needs to speak with an agent, Interactive Voice Messaging can automatically transfer the customer to a live agent.
  • Rich Media Messaging (RMM) is as easy as texting but can create a better customer experience by introducing rich media into the conversation. Rich media gives customers advanced features like audio, video, and appointment scheduling functions. RMM is also fully automated, which reduces inbound calls and frees up your agents’ time to focus on customers who do place an inbound call.

Those three are just a few examples of how focusing on the customer can improve your communication methods, which, in turn, will reduce inbound calls. Every customer group is different, though. You can’t just guess that your customers will be like the example above. It’s important to do customer research to find the ways your customers like to communicate.

Discover more about using interactive voice in customer service teams: Common IVR Call Centre Problems and How to Avoid Them

3. Break Down Organizational Silos

Inbound calls can also be a result of organizational silos. You’ll run into these silos when different departments in your organization are not working together.

For example, let’s say you run a call center for a direct-to-consumer company. Your marketing team sent out a mailer that announces a sale starting on Monday. When Monday comes, a customer visits your website, but the website has no mention of a sale starting that day. That lack of alignment is a silo that might cause the customer to make an inbound call to find out what’s going on.

As a customer service department, you’re often the main place customers go with questions. When there are silos and misalignment, you’re going to handle most of those queries.

Being customer-focused means creating a perfect customer experience. Part of creating a great experience is breaking down silos so that every department within your company is on the same page. That way, if one department makes a decision, the other departments will be well informed.

Departmental alignment will make sure that all customer-facing decisions will be clear. Meaning that the customer will have the same experience across all channels.

4. Invest in Customer Service Talent

When you’re looking to reduce inbound calls, you might implement a lot of technologies that should lower the number of calls your customer service team gets in a day. As a result, a common reaction is to invest less in talent.

The logic is that if your customer service team is handling fewer calls, they’ll need fewer resources. This thinking might cause you to lay off some employees or start paying employees less. Either option can lead to longer wait times, which will increase your ACR or will lead to a lower FCR.

That might sound counter-intuitive, but take a second to think about it. If your website’s chat, SMS, IVM, and RMM work as intended, the inbound calls your customer service team handles will be the difficult questions that can’t be easily solved by chat and automation.

If you hire the right CS team and invest in their development, they’ll be better trained to handle those difficult questions that your automated tools cannot. That way, if and when your customers do decide to pick up the phone, they can rest assured that your team can handle their problem with confidence

Reduce Inbound Calls to Customer Service Teams

Learn more about how to create the perfect strategy: Call Centre Strategy: 5 Steps With New Ideas and Proven Tactics

Focus on the Customer to Reduce Inbound Calls

Reducing inbound calls doesn’t come down to just implementing a new technology. It has be a larger, organizational initiative to focus on the customer. When you’re able to focus on the customer, their goals, and their needs, you’ll create a better customer experience.

When you create a better customer experience, your inbound calls will decrease as a result of the other initiatives that you’ve put in place to serve the customer.

VoiceSage can help you reduce inbound calls and increase customer experience rates with smart mobile messaging solutions. To find out more, get in touch with us or book a demo today

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Published on: 19th August 2019

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